Sunshine and Rain
We arrived in Groningen two weeks ago, to several days of brilliant sunshine, over 35ºC temperatures, and much to finish organising. Too busy to write. We left Groningen to start cruising about a week ago, nice weather, lots to see and do, a visitor to entertain/enslave. Too busy to write. We’re at a wild mooring in a National Park, and it’s raining. Not so busy, so we’re writing!
<well this WAS written, but as AussieHost had failed to renew my domain registry, eurmacs.com has been off the Internet for some time. Took a while to sort out. Grrrr>
Most of our time we have been pretty much flat out buying, adjusting, rearranging, organising and so forth. This, coupled with the fact it does not get dark until 11 pm has meant long days, and we drop into bed exhausted at the end of the day. There have been times of relaxing, but so far, this has been about as far from a bludge as it is possible to imagine. That said, it has been great fun and very rewarding. We’ve now got about 90% of the settling in work done, but very little of the maintenance – lots of painting and varnishing to do when the weather gets fine, and we stop for a few days.
We’re going to post descriptions and pictures of the great work that Willem, Andrew, Claudia, Aldo and all the team have done to make our suggested improvements a reality. The work has been great. However, We’ll save that for a later posting.
We brushed off the cobwebs with some very short, 200 m or so cruises up and down the blind canal in which Neo Vita was moored, where the shipyard is located. We practiced our forwards, reversing, 180º turns and mooring. In the quiet, and with plenty of space. It went pretty well despite ‘tapping’ a houseboat and startling the occupant on one occasion.
Our first cruise of the season was based around picking up our friend Steve, who was to be our first guest, and was going to stay for a few nights before he had to return to Amsterdam for a conference. Pickup and drop off was to be at Leeuwarden.
We left Groningen on a Tuesday, precisely at 10 am as the bridge was opened (pre-booked, only opens twice a day) and proceeded through the almost endless succession of bridges that characterise the Netherlands waterways.
Almost immediately, we had to pass through an enormous lock, one of few we are likely to encounter in this part of the Netherlands. We shared it with three giant commercial barges and learnt more about lock etiquette – which is basically ‘big guys go first’. Not sure of where to moor that night, we stayed in an outrageously expensive marina in the pretty village of Zoutkamp. We treated ourselves to a celebratory dinner out, our first since arrival, eating some of the plentiful local fresh fish.
Nice as the meal was, we rarely eat out, as we are very well fed by Chef Lisette, capable and inventive as always, and with some assistance from our new BBQ.
We left next day to traverse the Lauwersmeer, once part of the North Sea, but since 1969 when a dam was built to seal the northern access, it is now a large fresh water lake. With Lisette at the helm, we safely navigated it against reasonable wind and some chop, and cruised onto the old fortified, moated town of Dokkum. We had seen several photos of beautiful moorings in this town, near the windmills, and while waiting for the bridge to be opened after the lunchtime break, we tied her up and trotted off to check out what was available. Found a good spot and dashed back to Neo Vita to prepare to leave quickly. Only to have the key to the wheelhouse break while trying to get in.
Neo Vita is pretty secure when locked, and the prospect of breaking thick double-glazed windows was not appealing. Purely by chance, we had left the skylights closed but unlocked. Dropping through the open hatch and we were in. Spare key out (and several new ideas on how to avoid another possible lockout) and off to get to a great mooring near one of the two windmills. The windmills are actually built over the remains of the old cannon placements.
We stayed two nights in Dokkum, a pretty town, in great weather, but as we were still playing catchup with chores, only browsed around the town.
Becoming Catharina Elisabeth
Then we were ready for the trip to Leeuwarden to pick up our first guest, an old friend of ours from Uni days – Steve. He might have thought he was coming for a holiday – but we soon disabused him of that notion. Too many chores still to do, and an extra pair of hands was welcome. So, he had a working holiday, building new deck furniture and a barbecue, running errands, and most importantly, helping with the tricky task of placing Catharina’s full name on her bow. That was fully a three person job, with Steve and Ian holding the adhesive vinyl letters, and Lisette hanging from the rusty recovery ladder and attaching them.
But it was a great moment to have her full name gloriously displayed on her bow, and we four celebrated with a glass of Veuve Cliquot champagne that Steve had bought along.
Popped the cork-
Poured the glasses –
Gave Catharina Elisabeth her drink –
And her proud owners posed with her for pictures before finishing their drinks.
We’ve kept several mementos of Neo Vita, especially the door to our bedroom, which has a fabulous glass etching of her name, compass headings and a picture of her cruising.
We will forever remember the tremendous new experience that she introduced us to during that first season’s cruise that she took us on.
The next day we set off for a short run to the town of Franeker to give Steve a taste of cruising. After a little over two hours, we moored up, and did a few more chores – well Steve did, while we supervised! Then we went off to visit the Eisenga Planetarium.
This is the oldest working planetarium in the world. It has been operating continuously and open to the public for almost 250 years. Eise Eisinga was born to a family of woolcombers, and barely completed primary school. However, his intellectual capacity and thirst for knowledge was quickly recognised, and his father arranged for Eise to have supplementary lessons from a teacher in town. At the age of 15, he published his first book – a 650 page tome on mathematics. At 17, he had published a book on astronomy. He wanted to build a planetarium to educate the residents of Franeker which would be constructed in his and his wife’s house, using their living room ceiling. Ten thousand hand made nails, nine pendulums, intricate gearing and precise measurements (well Saturn was a bit off apparently) and seven years later (6.5 years longer than planned) it was finished and Eise’s wife had her bedroom back.
It is truly amazing, still accurate and is being maintained using his original instructions (when to lift the various pendulums, when to move a piece by a millimetre, when to tighten a screw…).
The earlier photo of the roast chicken was that night’s meal, and leftovers made a few nice chicken sandwiches.
The leaning tower of Leeuwarden
Next morning, we started back to Leeuwarden as we had finished most of the construction jobs, so Steve could get back to Amsterdam to have a rest. As it was a short trip, after we had moored we had some time for a little touristing, Steve seemed insistent that we leave Catharina and take a stroll through town – can’t imagine why!
Leeuwarden has its own leaning tower – the Oldehove. Construction on the church was started in 1529 but the land was reclaimed marsh and the tower soon started to tilt. They tried shoring it up with clay, but eventually the project was abandonned. The angle of leaning is 1.99 metres! Two enormous bells cast in the Leeuwarden foundry in 1633 and 1636, ring out on the hour.
After a pleasant late lunch at a cafe, we bade farewell to Steve, and promised him next time that he would get more time sitting in a deck chair, we returned to Catharina and more chores and tweaking. As we still had a few more significant items to sort out, we decided to stay a couple more days to sort these out. A number of things were of a hardware nature, we needed a good hardware store.
Willem and Andrew had recommended ‘Auke Rauwerda’ a store that was just a 200 m or so away.
They say in Leeuwarden, and throughout the entire region, that if you want some any item of hardware, and can’t find it in Rauwerda, then it doesn’t exist.The place is amazing. It’s over 80 years old, and now occupies seven houses and several floors in some of them, absolutely packed with every hardware item imaginable. Shelves upon shelves of bolts; shelves upon shelves of nails; – and on and on.
For those familiar with Bunnings, I can say without any exaggeration that for every one item that is in Bunnings, there would be ten more variants in Rauwerda. Then add in all the marine items and it is a hardware wonderland.
Our last day in Leeuwarden was highlighted by meeting up with the first of the friends we had made through the various social media channels that cruising folk use. We had a great evening with Sheila and Paul, starting in the mid-afternoon with tea and coffee on Catharina, and then moving onto beer and wine on their 12m cruiser Papillon in the evening. We listened abashed at how poorly treated they were by the Australian government, forced to leave after seven years because of some visa technicality. Turns out, our loss, they’ve done well since. We weaved our way home at a little after 11 pm, just as it went dark, realising that our plans to leave at 9 am in the morning were in tatters – but not caring a whit.
So here we are now, writing this the next day, now onboard Catharina, and we’ll cover this first ‘outback’ phase of our journey in a future posting.